"A Bottom-Line Approach to Sales and Marketing Success"
Grant Johnson, Senior Vice President and General Manager, nFusion West

As everyone now is painfully aware, the boom has gone bust. In this sluggish economy, marketing and sales professionals must produce greater results with fewer resources. The challenge: How can you achieve better returns from your sales and marketing investment? The solution: Adopt a bottom-line approach. Here are five keys steps to fostering a successful transition to results-based sales and marketing.

Develop a systematic approach to demand creation - To achieve measurable results, you must have a systematic approach to generating demand. Start by doing the math. If you need to close 100 customers, how many proposals will have to be generated? If your close ratio is 50 percent, 200 is the answer. How many qualified leads will you have to generate to get 200 proposals? If you're efficient, perhaps 1,000. To get 1,000 qualified leads, how many prospects must flow into your lead qualification systems? At this entry stage of the sales funnel, you have to make assumptions as to how many leads each marketing vehicle will generate. You'll need some multiple of the 1,000 qualified leads because many leads will turn out to be merely tire kickers. Finally, make assumptions as to the response rates you'll get from every marketing vehicle you use, from advertising to direct and e-mail marketing to events and public relations. Ultimately, measuring how each element of the marketing mix performs will let you increase your efficiency and meet your sales goals.

Focus on high-return opportunities - The operative word here is "focus." Many business people have a tendency to "spread out" in times of crisis and look outside core markets for business. It's only natural to think the more potential customers you have, the more potential business you could get. However, what often results from this flurry of activity is just that: a flurry of activity. Instead, you need to be more productive and precise with the limited dollars you have. You should concentrate your efforts and resources where you have the highest probability of winning business. Then, further concentrate on getting wins that represent high-return opportunities. Know what types of customers represent potential growth and which represent a distraction. Understand who is buying today -and who has the potential to buy more tomorrow.

Get closer to your customers - In the game of darts, the closer you are to the target, the more likely you are to score. The same principle applies in business. The closer you are to your customers, the more likely you are to score sales. Understand why they buy your product or service, how they use it, what frustrates them and what pleases them. Understand these subtleties and nuances better than your competition - and respond to them better than your competition - and you'll be more effective at winning business and building relationships.

Test high-return techniques – For your organization, a high-return marketing technique may mean using electronic mail or e-newsletters. The Web represents a high-return opportunity because of the very low variable costs associated with it. If you're selling a high-cost product that requires approval from multiple decision-makers, you might be better off spending more marketing dollars per contact. Whatever your technique, you should be disciplined about having measurement systems in place to determine what's working and what's not. Use both qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure your effectiveness.

Integrate all your efforts - This tip is perhaps where you can get the most bang for your buck. All of your marketing programs should be inherently linked to your sales efforts. Whether you use a direct sales force, resellers, e-commerce, or a combination of all three, your marketing efforts should be focused on moving the sales process along. Integration also means making sure your marketing efforts are consistent and reinforcing your core brand proposition and key messages. Public relations, employee communications, advertising and on- and off-line marketing all should communicate with one voice. Long term, this unified effort will strengthen your brand and ultimately increase your revenues and profitability.

Grant Johnson is senior vice president and general manager of nFusion West in Irvine, Calif. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, nFusion is a full-service agency that helps mid-size to emerging companies plan and execute demand generation programs that deliver measurable results. Mr. Johnson can be reached at (949) 753-2898 or gjohnson@nfusion.com.

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